I was not interested in his lecture
series but was interested in his musical achievements. His work
seemed to me like a continuation of Ellington and Monk.
Awhile later, after beginning the
pre-production phase of my film, "The Cry of Jazz," it became
apparent to me that some of Sun Ra's music recorded on Saturn (his
own record label started with Alton Abraham) would be quite
appropriate for the sound track of "The Cry" to illustrate some
musical points the narration was making.
I subsequently met with him and Abraham
to arrange for the use of the music. We agreed that, in return for
using some of his works recorded on Saturn, he would receive major
credit, his band would be photographed performing the music, and he
would figure in whatever publicity the film received.
This was a godsend to me because it
meant that we (the producers of "Cry") had a substantial beginning
for our musical tracks, that we had tracks of high musical quality,
and that we had obtained them at no cost. Also, I was saved the
time, work and cost of writing and producing the tracks myself.
When meeting with Sunny he regaled me
about his being the "Sun God of Jazz". I ignored his preaching and
concentrated only on what I considered his musical achievements.
During this time, he heard some of my chamber music and remarked
that I was "hip to space music also and wasn't bound to earth
It was apparent to me that in addition
to his gift of musical originality he had a secure foundation in the
craft of musical composition. During those years in Chicago I met
Tom Wilson, who was recording Sun Ra for his label out of Boston.
Tom had just gotten his MBA from Harvard and was one of the first
Black Jazz record company owners I had met. Wilson later became the
producer who brought to fame Terri Thornton, Bob Dylan, Simon and
Garfunkel, The Blues Project, and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of
"The Cry" was released in 1959. I moved
to NYC in early 1960. In early 1961, I got a telephone call from Sun
Ra from Canada where he and his Arkestra had been performing. He
informed me that he and his group were on their way to NYC to live
and could I help them in any way. I answered that I would help in
any way I could, but that my funds and contacts were limited.
After they had settled in NYC, I
introduced Sunny and company to the photographer and filmmaker Helen
Levitt, and to Emile d'Antonio, the political documentary filmmaker.
Pretty soon the Arkestra had a short gig at the Bitter End on
Bleecker Street. I noticed that Sunny was stressing his "Sun God of
Jazz" propaganda more than ever.
I was beginning to get record dates as
arranger/conductor and was able to use Sun Ra and his sidemen on
various sessions involving Tom Wilson and Curly Williams—another
Chicagoan, composer of "A Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On". Styles in
these sessions ranged from Rhythm and Blues to Limbo, Ska, and
Gospel Jazz. Often Sunny would pick up extra money by taking musical
dictation from the songwriters involved.
One of the last sessions with Sun Ra
and Tom Wilson was a "bootleg" Batman album done in 1966 for a
children's record label that involved Sunny, John Gilmore, Ronnie
Boykins, Pat Patrick, Blues Project members Danny Kalb, Al Kooper,
and their drummer and bassist, with jazz players Jimmy Owens and Tom
As time went on, Sunny pushed his "Sun
God Of Jazz" more vigorously and started showing up late for
recording sessions. After several warnings from me about his
tardiness, I had to stop using him on sessions, as it was reflecting
on me in my capacities as contractor, leader and arranger/producer
for my record company clients.
Our personal and professional
relationships ceased shortly thereafter, sometime in 1967.
Ed Bland has sent us the following
addenda: This is my recollection of a recording that Sun Ra and
various members of his band participated in with me. It was done on
Audio Fidelity Records or Dauntless Records (Dauntless was a
subsidiary of Audio Fidelity). Tom Wilson was the producer. Curly
Williams who wrote "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" was a participant
along with Wilson.\
"The Limbo Queen—How Low Can You
Go?"—Roz Croney, The Limbo Queen. I conducted and arranged, may have
written a song. Circa 1963. Side one: (solos noted and by whom as
best I can remember)
1. It's Limbo Time (bass clarinet).
Gilmore played it. 2. Limbo Like Me (guitar, steel drum, flute).
Guitar Snaggs Allen, if it was a rock or R & B solo. If it was a
Caribbean type solo, it would've been Larry Lucie. I don't recall a
steel drum or a steel drum player. 3. Bagpipe Limbo (flute, guitar).
Flute probably Pat Patrick, guitar Lucie or Snaggs Allen 4. Doggie
In The Window Limbo (Gilmore's soprano) 5. The Limbo Queen (guitar,
flute). Flute probably Pat Patrick, guitar Lucie or Snaggs Allen 6.
Everyday Limbo (piano, guitar). Piano Sun Ra, guitar Lucie or Snaggs
Side two: 1. Kachink Limbo (guitar,
flute). Flute probably Pat Patrick, guitar Lucie or Snaggs Allen 2.
Loop De Loop Limbo (piano, soprano sax, guitar). Guitar Lucie or
Snaggs Allen, Sun Ra piano, Gilmore soprano. 3. Bossa Nova Limbo
(guitar, organ). Guitar Lucie or Snaggs Allen, Sun Ra organ. 4. How
Low Does Lulu Limbo (guitar). Lucie or Snaggs Allen. 5. What Makes
The Limbo Rock (alto sax). Maybe Marshall Allen. I don't remember
Marshall for his soloistic ability during that time 6. Whole Lot Of
Shaking Going On (organ, guitar). Guitar Lucie or Snaggs Allen, Sun
Earl Williams was the drummer. He was
the son of Paul Williams who wrote "The Huckebuck." I'm quite sure
Ronnie Boykins was on Bass. The backup vocals were by Joe Lewis,
George Tipton, Joli Gonsalves, and possibly others. The sessions
took place at Mastertone Studios on 42nd Street between 6th and 7th
Another pop/RB recording that I
employed Sun Ra and some of his group on was on Epic 5-9663 in
1963(?). A 45 rpm single featuring Richard "Popcorn" Wylie.
I arranged and conducted "Marlene" and
"Do you still care for me" The producer was Bobby Gregg. Gregg was
also the drummer on many of the Dylan tracks from around the same
time. Hanging out with Wylie during this session was Bob Bateman
former Motown associate & writer of "Mr. Postman". At this time
Bateman was an A&R Director / Producer for Capitol Records In NYC.
Gregg had put me on notice that I would
be doing this session. But I was notified by his office only 24
hours before the session was scheduled to hit. I had to transcribe 4
lead sheets from Wylie (who was musically illiterate) arrange and
copy the 4 charts, and contract the musicians.
While I was working with Wylie (who was
drunk) trying to transcribe the lead sheets he vomited on me in the
apartment of the Jazz trombonist / arranger / composer Tom Mcintosh
(who came to additional fame with the Jazztet, James Moody and the
I did not get label credit. Because of
the screw up on the label credit the producer, Gregg, felt guilty
and didn't challenge my rather high bill. Sun Ra was on Piano,
Gilmore on Tenor and Bass Clarinet. (Gilmore may have taken a bass
clarinet solo on one of the 4 charts) Pat Patrick on Baritone, quite
possibly Marshall Allen was on Alto.
Tom Mcintosh on Trombone. Ronald
Boykins on Bass. Boykins was on the Limbo album also. I also used
Sun Ra's drummer at that time (I can't remember his name) But I do
remember he showed up so late that Bobby Gregg the producer had to
play drums on the recording of the first tune. In addition to Sun
Ra's men I'm sure there were other studio men involved like Snaggs
Allen on guitar.
As best I can recollect the following
recordings that I arranged, conducted and or produced had Sun Ra
and/or members of his Arkestra as sidemen.
Eric Kloss—"Grits and Gravy" Prestige
LP 7486 1966. Sun Ra definitely not on piano. Pretty sure Ronnie
Boykins was on Bass. Freddy McCoy—"Funk Drops" Prestige LP 7470
circa 1965/66. possibly Gilmore and or Pat Patrick on saxes, maybe
Ronnie Boykins. No Sun Ra. Lonnie Satin—"Watermelon Man" ca. 1963
probably Sun Ra on piano, Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Ronnie Boykins.
Bobby Gregg—"Any Number Can Win" Epic Records ca
1964 Sun Ra, Gilmore, Pat Patrick, and possibly Boykins. Bobby
Gregg—"McDougal Street" Epic Records ca.1964. Sun Ra, Gilmore, Pat
Patrick, and possibly Boykins. Bobby Gregg—It's Good To Me" Epic
Records ca.1964-Sun Ra, Gilmore, Pat Patrick, and possibly Boykins.
There was also a recording of "My Boy
Lollipop" the first Ska hit, around '62 or '63, for Tom Wilson and
Dauntless/Audio Fidelity. I forgot the artist but I do remember
using some of Sun Ra's men on this session and probably Sonny on
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